Renovation of Military Course on Oahu Earns Kudos

A major renovation of Oahu's Leilehua Golf Course is earning praise. The project was completed in June by Colorado-based golf architect Mark Miller.

"Leilehua greens are simply awesome! They are large, fast and extraordinarily undulating," exclaimed Dr. Earle Nagawa, a regular at the course who has also been "spreading the good news" to his patients and associates.

Leilehua Golf Course is a U.S. military-owned public 18-hole course on the the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The project has upgraded the nearly 70-year-old layout to contemporary design and construction standards, including rebuilding the greens to USGA specifications. The course is now being hailed as one of the military's top courses.

"Our philosophy on all renovation projects is to work carefully with the owners from the beginning to ensure we are all on the same page, keeping them involved every step of the way," said Miller. "Going beyond their expectations, or creating what we call the 'wow factor,' is what we strive for on all of our projects. I think we achieved that at Leilehua."

The renovation showcases the balance between fun and challenging. "Each green is uniquely different and will truly test your ball-placement skills throughout the entire round . . . I really enjoy playing there," Dr. Nagawa added.

"This is exactly how we envisioned it," said Mike Iyoki, Leilehua director of golf. "This is a great design."

"Our primary design goal was to not change the feel of the course but to add strategy through the use of green contouring, bunkering and grassing, giving the course a bit more character and personality," noted Miller. "Additionally, by providing a good variety of tee locations the course is now more accessible to all levels of golfers."

Located on the U.S. Army's Schofield Barracks, Leilehua has long been a favorite of Hawaiian locals. The 18-hole course has hosted numerous tournaments, including the Hawaiian Open satellite Pro-Am, the prestigious Army Amateur golf tournament, and the Governor John A. Burns Cup (an NCAA event).

"I consider Leilehua my home course. I've played more rounds here than any other course," said Hal Okita, the facility's former director of golf. "But over time a course needs to be revitalized. The added degree of difficulty, and the designed risk and reward, I believe comes from the eyes of an architect who knows what the heck he's doing. I find it exciting and love what I see out there."

In light of the project's cost-effective and environmentally sustainable features - as well as the positive reactions of the military and civilian communities, it has won the ABC Excellence in Construction award. More plans are now in the works to nominate Leilehua for other industry citations.

Other projects in the works by Miller include:

A major renovation of a 36-hole course in Washington, D.C.;
Two country club renovations in the state of Washington;
Ongoing pro bono work with the city of Fort Collins long-range, public-course master plan.

To learn more about the Leilehua project and Miller Design Golf, visit There you'll find a five-minute mini-documentary about the Leilehua renovation with before and after shots and interviews of key players involved in the project.